Juan made the perfect transition by citing St. Francis’ prayer, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace”. We have been trained to (mis?)read Christianity primarily as a preparation for an afterlife. In order to appreciate fully God’s love we should be placing more emphasis on participating in the history of salvation here and now. The Bible narrates it in this fashion: God provides a good creation, humans corrupt it by rejecting his ways, and God in his love comes to correct the situation. As the first benefactors of this correction, we are to join others in making a better world. At the least, we are to serve as witnesses to what God is doing. God works with us to guarantee the results.
This means Christianity is always prophetic, working in the tension between what is and what ought to be. Sin is a reality. The present is not as good as it gets. We are called to seek a better way.
A lifestyle based on this assumption would include:
1. Regular self-examination which includes rethinking our values and actions without becoming fatalistic, moralistic, or contemptuous of self. Acting in confidence that God will make all right in the future.
2. Making healing a priority, including treating illness and injury, forgiving sin, returning good for evil, and loving of enemies. Acting as if nobody is beyond the reach of redemptive love. Martin Luther King in “Loving Our Enemies” caught the spirit when he described the connection between love and forgiveness, claiming this is the only way to make an enemy a friend. We love our enemies, because a) returning hate for hate multiplies hate and b) hate harms the hater just as much as the hated. Hate prevents us from acing realistically. King claimed those who practice love will eventually overcome their enemies, because they will wear them down with their capacity to suffer and absorb evil. And he claims the victory will be a double one, because it will liberate the enemy as well.
3. Working for social justice, tackling world problems such as economic injustice, militarism, racism, hunger, homelessness, oppression, illness, etc.
4. Constantly seeking ways to overcome violence. Many modern Christians believe in our time of powerful technology we must begin to practice radical unconditional love or else lose everything. At the least, we must seek creative ways to address war, capital punishment, terrorism, weapons control, and abuse.
5. Going beyond human relationships to include the biosphere in the history of salvation.
6. Practicing your vocation as a calling from God to serve people.
7. Always working for a better world, a better way, remembering the Incarnation reminds us we are as fragile and vulnerable as Jesus and the Crucifixion that this will involve self-denial and sacrifice.
This ends the summer session. I learned a lot about online teaching. I especially like the conversational style that developed and will try to continue it. I want to try another approach on September 15. I’ll offer very short units on various doctrines, trying to incite conversation that goes to their real intentions. That seems appropriate after we have been assaulted with too many silly misrepresentations of these doctrines lately. I hope I do not regret these words. We’ll begin with creation.